Japan Crisis – Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Radiation – What Can We Learn?

Photo by Yahoo! 7 News

I suspect some of you have been wondering why SHTF Blog hasn’t devoted a post to the crisis in Japan yet. “Is SHTF Blog oblivious to world events?” you might ask. No, I’ve just been reluctant to “chase the news” so to speak, basically regurgitating news of the tragic events as though SHTF Blog readers can’t read the news on their own. I’ve seen some prepper sites that are publishing posts every moment a new detail is released, with the tone of their posts seemingly intended to drum up fear and paranoia. Then there are other prepper sites that are using the events to push a “this is why we prepare” justification. I see that as preaching to the choir. Most people reading this site already know the many reasons why anyone in their right mind should take reasonable preparedness measures for self, family and friends.

There are elements of the news stories that have caught my attention, however, elements that I think are worth noting here.

Private jet operators reported a surge in demand for evacuation flights which sent prices surging as much as a quarter. One jet operator said the cost of flying 14 people to Hong Kong from Tokyo was more than $160,000.”I got a request yesterday to fly 14 people from Tokyo to Hong Kong, 5 hour 5 minutes trip. They did not care about price,” said Jackie Wu, COO of Hong Kong Jet.

Many of the societal lessons that will be learned from this event will happen after the dust finally settles, when hindsight is 20/20; but for the prepper, watching the events unfold highlights a few lessons that can be reinforced (or re-learned) now.

  • People freak out! People in California buying and taking potassium iodide, forcing the City of Los Angeles Health Department to issue a notice advising people not to take potassium iodide. The Bush administration even made the controversial step of scrapping a plan to distribute potassium iodide to people in a zone extending between 10 and 20 miles from the site of a nuclear incident stating there are more effective responses like evacuation (read the White House memo here). (Read here for information about radioactive iodine exposure.) Do I recommend people have Potassium Iodide in their SHTF storage room? Sure – why not? But that doesn’t mean you need to freak out and unnecessarily loose your cool. Now is the worst time to buy them as prices are through the roof, and what supplies are available, should instead get sent to Japan.
  • The government is a questionable source of information! “Everything will be fine” seems to be the consistent government mantra during times of crisis and Japan’s government response is no exception. Then when things get worse, the government loses credibility making the situation even worse. The Japanese government is telling some people that they’re fine where they are while the U.S. government is telling Americans to get out now. I suspect if the nuclear crisis happened in the U.S., the U.S. would be telling people everything is fine and the Japanese would be telling their citizens to leave.

What do you think? Are there new preparedness lessons that can be learned from the crisis in Japan, lessons that haven’t been discussed before, or maybe new lessons to you?

One thing is for certain, these events will bring more attention and legitimacy to the practical preparedness movement.

– Ranger Man

BTW: if there was ever a reason for me to get a dog, the story of this Japanese dog refusing to leave the side of its ailing K9 friend is a good one. Read the English news article here, YouTube Japanese news story here, and view embedded Japanese story here:

19 comments… add one
  • noisynick March 17, 2011, 7:59 am

    I see lots of reminders of things that I should remember and not allow to slip away. Lessons most of us who watched or lived katrina learned.
    One is the Government tells people what they want them to hear not always the Truth. And in the best scenarios it will be several days before any type of aid will be available and much longer in most cases.
    The biggest thing I think coming from this is when faced with multiple disasters in the same area like this (earthquake,tsunami,nuclear incident) Even the people supposedly in the know don’t know what to do or what the outcome will be.
    So at that point its all up too you which is what normally happens in these situations. Bottom line make your own preps on what you consider your most apt to happen SHTF scenario and plan accordingly………

  • SD March 17, 2011, 8:21 am


  • Prepared N.D. March 17, 2011, 8:35 am

    Two questions come to my mind when watching these events and the public’s reaction.

    Is this going to increase or decrease the preparedness level of the U.S. west coast? Some news reports are sensationalist, saying the west coast will start receiving radiation as early as today, others are saying the coast will be fine. The majority of the sales for KI are being made by people in the US right now – many of these people are paying a 10-20x premium. Is this going to cause another Y2K syndrome? (I spent $1000s preparing for Y2k, nothing happened, so screw it).

    What happens to Tokyo? I’ve been following this religiously since the tsunami occurred, I really don’t have a clue as to the actual severity of the situation regarding the nuclear plant. I know the winds are occasionally directed toward Tokyo, and the measurements at the reactor sites are lethal at times.

    After watching the actions taken by TEPCO and the government live on tv, and the pictures of the site, the armchair nuclear scientist and engineer in me is thinking the situation is much more grave than they’re letting on.

    If there is a large release, Tokyo can potentially receive a dangerous dose of radiation based on what has happened in Chernobyl – Tokyo really isn’t that far away. So, do they trust the government and stay? Or do they leave now? Radiation can reach the city in a matter of hours, even if they announced that the plume was headed that way, I don’t think it’s very reasonable to believe a city of that size can get to safety in enough time. It seems that waiting on confirmation from geiger counters or even for a turn for the worse at the nuclear plant will result in a failed evacuation.

    • Beavis being a Butthead March 17, 2011, 10:53 am

      Question & not a challenge:

      Why is Tokyo in “potential” danger due to it’s proximity but the west coast of America is in more danger?

      Answer: The west coast of America is in grave danger so please leave now! I will risk staying back & buy a beachfront house in Malibu for $500 and surf uncrowded waves.

      Funny, last night on the news 2 world experts (worked the 3 mile Island & Cherynobl disasters as nuclear physicists with that data) said – on public TV no less, there is ZERO danger to the US. In fact, they said the sun provides more radiation exposure.

      America is sadly becoming the land of arrogant people.

      And by the way, your right Spook, you should steal a boat, car, plane or truck and flee a disaster – why not? It’s the new world’s model of integrity.

      While you’re at it, run up the credit cards too ~

  • Spook45 March 17, 2011, 9:05 am

    The Japanese people are very strange. I speak Japanese and have friends there and from there and the entire culture is one of top down discipline. They trust what ever the govt tells them. I have followed this situation very closely and had I been in that situation, I would have moved south away from the primary Nuclear threat, moved to the coast, stolen a boat(the biggest nicest one I could find) I would have scrounged, hunted and dug up all of the provisions I could find and I would have set sail south and east away from the radiation and toward the nearest Island country I could find on the map! These types of threats are not the kind you can fight, resist or bargain with. Radiation has no conscience. The only reasonable answer here is to move away from the threat and because it was on an Island, you must leave the Isalnd. I had family there when the Tsunami struck. They were able to get off of the train(that was stuck) and get on to a plane and get out. just in the knick of time.

  • Jason March 17, 2011, 4:36 pm

    For some perspective:

    A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 – 1998 by Isao Hashimoto. It may shock you how many there were …..


    (credit to Clark)

  • Rebel March 17, 2011, 5:05 pm

    The BBC reports that all the japanest have a bug out bag

    • Jason March 17, 2011, 7:36 pm


      Great link, thanks!

      Japan is experiencing probably the greatest & most extensive SHTF situation ever in modern history & will be a fantastic lesson.

  • Myles March 17, 2011, 11:02 pm

    One thing that really jumped out at me was how fast a stockpile of prep supplies could disappear. You could be the best prepper in the world and a tsunami, or a mudlside, or an earthquake could wipe it all out in seconds. I imagine a lot of those people that survived the tsunami but lost their homes probably had plenty of food and water stored away. Especially the older generation that grew up in the 1950’s when Japan was rebuilding from the ground up and everything was in short supply.

    • ChefBear58 March 18, 2011, 4:18 am

      Good point Myles!
      Another reason why having separate cache’s of supplies wherever you could put them. If you are in an area where disasters like flooding/tsunami/tornado/hurricane/etc. are possible, then you may want to try and find an area nearby which would be less likely to be effected by at least a few of these events. I found an old mine not far from where I live, most of it is collapsed but the first 30yds in are in great shape, and you can’t see it unless you are standing at the right angle right in front of it, and it’s built into a hillside about 100′ above the flood-plane.

  • WAIF March 18, 2011, 11:36 am

    Most of Prep thinking of One main Scenario at a Time..

    Japan has Had a Triple Punch

    That must be a Game Changer, How many of us Truely think more than One Event at a time?(Blackout, Earthquake,Civil unrest,Chemical Spill etc)
    There are Plenty of Lessons to be Learnt in the Wake of this Disaster

    Prayers to The victims & Survivors of this Ongoing Situation
    Pray It get No worse

  • SPARROW47 March 18, 2011, 11:51 am

    Firstly, sorry for a long reply post. Having said that, i disagree with a lot of what you said in this blog post. However, in the true spirit of being a conservative, ill explain why i disagree and use facts, as opposed to the liberal technique of saying your an ignorant country boy then yelling loudly when you try to respond.

    Firstly, you say little to no looting because they are a harmonized society. While thats certainly true and is a factor, the real reason there is so little looting isnt being told by most of the media. Why? If you look in the liberal dictionary of curse words, right next to “baby raping tea bagger” is the word “prepare”. In Japan, everyone has an earthquake kit, and everyone from a young age is taught what to do, complete with rides in an earthquake simulator. wheras in Katrina everyone was unprepared and took to improvising, in Japan everyone knew exactly what to do and took action.

    Secondly, i think the bush administration decided to stop the KIO3 distribution network as both a cost cutting measure and because it confirmed that yes, there was a risk from nuclear power. Why do i say this? Because evacuations in general never work. Flat out. Ill give an example to help you guys conceptualize what im talking about. On an airplane, the plane needs to be evacuated in under 120 seconds, using 50% of available exits. Most companies test this by filling the plane with volunteers, parking it in a hanger, and when they say go everyone streams off the plane in an orderly manner, helped by the cabin crew. A behavioral psychologist tried the same experiment. Except she noted that the situation was too artificial, and lacked the urgency of a real evacuation. Rather than set the plane on fire to encourage the passengers to leave quickly (not a bad idea imho) she gave a big monetary reward for the first person off the plane. Bingo! It was like watching a swarm of animals; people pushing and shoving each other, climbing over seats, basically using a “screw my fellow man” attitude. Remember how people acted during Katrina, where they knew what was coming, could see it, could probably survive it with a little luck and improvisation? Now imagine instead you are trying to evacuate from a force you cannot see, feel ,smell or know how close to you it is, thats so lethal that you (informed by the sensationalist media) have come to think of as the next black death… Can you imagine the panic? everyone will be trying to evacuate, using any and all means possible.

    Having said that, now is too late to get potassium iodide. everyone is either out of stock (ex: infowars, campingsurvival etc), overwhelmed with orders (ki4u.com) or jacking up their prices alarmingly. If you absolutely insist on getting some, either prepare to overpay, or my advice is order from ki4u.com once they get back to taking new orders (shouldnt be much longer). There are other options: http://www.ki4u.com/plan_b.htm
    Keep in mind im not a doctor though.

    Lastly, i agree the govt is a bad source of information. Earlier this week they actually got confused in their lies… The govt was saying we didnt need KIO3 and at the same time the surgeon general was saying it was a sensible thing to do to buy some and have it on hand…. Japan has apparently blacked out some of its radiation sensors before releasing the data to the public. Clearly something is going on that we dont know about.

    A remark in closing:
    Most of the wind born radiation will land in California. Although it may not be enough in and of itself to hurt the residents, poisons get more concentrated as they move up the food chain. With Cali producing a big part the US’s food supply, thats a huge vulnerability. Keep in mind that 2010 was a bad harvest year and food prices are already setting new highs, losing Cali’s crop harvest for 2011 will be an enormous hit to the global food supply.

    • ChefBear58 March 19, 2011, 3:22 am

      “the liberal technique of saying your an ignorant country boy then yelling loudly when you try to respond.”

      I find the most effective way to “answer” this type of attitude, is to rest my right hand on my M1911 -GI (.45) that is typically resting on my hip… start tapping the side of the holster like I am bored… and “break out” a pissed-off and annoyed look … 99% of the time it works to shut the constantly flappin’ liberal yap! The only time it didn’t was with my blind cousin (he’s adopted! Everybody else, except his parents can think for themselves!) , and I felt kinda stupid afterward when I stepped back and looked at it in retrospect!

  • Presager Buddy March 18, 2011, 6:41 pm

    Much of the reason why the truth of the seriousness of the Japanese nuclear power plants has been so down-played is that most of the information that the Japanese govenment is getting is coming from the private businesses that run the plants. It’s not in their interest to be honest about it – especially given the very seriously dangerous situation that exists in Japan right now. As I recall, a similar type of response happened in the early days of Three Mile Island. Eventually, a government spokesman was forced to come in and try to make the situation more clearly understood. It wasn’t until later that people really unerstood the severity of what had happened.

  • GoneWithTheWind March 19, 2011, 1:30 pm

    It is virtually impossible for these reactors to release the massive amount of radioactive material that Chernobyl did. Chernobyl was designed to make it easy to extract weapons grade material it was not designed to be safe or effectively generate electricity. The reactors in Japan were in fact designed to withstand a meltdown. If that happens it won’t be “good” but it also won’t be Chernobyl either. In the short term some radioactive material will be released but it will be minimal and not deadly. Tokyo will be safe. On the other hand I fully expect the MSM to make it look like Chernobyl. And the very fact that radiation can be detected will pass as “proof” of danger. At this point there is nothing that can be done to make this go away it is now just a matter of how much worse it will get before it starts getting better.

    • Jason and his Argonauts March 19, 2011, 2:37 pm

      Gone With The Wind (appropriate name for this post)

      Are you kidding me, no California radiation??? Now what am I going to the contaminate clean suits I bought for my entire family, the 100,000 anti radiation pills & Berkey water filter?

      Damn it, I was fooled by the MSM once again …

      Just in case, I’ll stop eating bananas to minimize my radiation exposure.

    • SPARROW47 March 19, 2011, 3:37 pm

      Yes and no; its much less likely the reactors will release radiation; their containment vessels were well built. Having said that, we have no clue if they are ruptured or damaged at this time, and by how much. Case in point: at TMI (three mile island) the main reason that the hydrogen explosion didnt rupture the containment and spray radiation everywhere was because some bright engineer had noticed that TMI was under the final approach route of an airport so the containment vessel was reinforced considerably. We have no idea just how strong Japan’s containment is, n0r how damaged it was by the explosions and earthquakes. Obviously destructive testing with TNT would not be a cost effective way of checking how well the numbers hold up in real life and how many bar/in^2 the structure can actually hold down under. But the reactors themselves arent the big concern…

      Much more worrisome are the spent radiation containment pools. They are basically giant swimming pools in which highly radioactive fuel rods sit for a while before being shipped out for disposal. Water, being very dense, is extremely good at blocking radiation, so no further containment beyond the building itself is provided. In Japan, its theorized that these pools are either empty or fast approaching empty, the water boiling off in a cloud of steam. These pools are the real danger. Firstly, containment IS breached; the buildings have had holes blasted into them from the hydrogen explosions; you can actually see the pool in one picture. There is nothing to catch the radiation if the fuel overheats and ignites the zirconium plating. Worse, the radio-active cloud would contain not just iodine isotopes but cesium. Iodine has a half life of under a month; a few moths and the area is safe again. Cesium has a 30 YEAR half life; parts of the Ukraine are still radioactive to this day.

      If the worst case scenario of the spent fuel pool melting down occurs, the resulting cloud would poison large portions of Japan. Worse, enough of it will follow the jet stream and land not just on the US west coast but more importantly on California. As i said earlier this is a major disaster. The worlds food supply depends to a big extent on California’s harvest being good and non-glow-in-the-dark.

      Lastly, how do you quantify radiation as deadly? As enough to kill you instantly? Or enough to cause a 5% increase in the likely hood of cancer? How does on class the “deadliness” of this sort of disaster?

  • john March 20, 2011, 8:34 pm

    Four things to learn from Japan.

    1) Gas shortage hit a wider area then the disaster immediately.

    2) Power outage hit a wider area then the disaster immediately with no power likely for months.

    3) It is hard to get food and shelter to people that need it, even if you have it, because of no roads and no gas.

    4) The disaster wiped out a great part of their FUTURE food stock.

    If I had 100 extra pounds of rice and 100 extra cans of soup and wanted to deliver it to my fellow citizens, I can’t get there. So, it falls upon a “prepper” within the immediate zone to do what he/she can to save who they will.

    So … even though all but one of my vehicles are 4×4, I think I might get a 6×6 gator or something along that line. Even if I had to trailer it to a place and then drive it the rest of the way in.

    If I have enough food to last me six months and my fellow citizens are starving 50 miles away, I would be inclined to either deliver food or take a whole family out of the area to live with us on the short term.

    Can’t do that without the correct vehicles and gas.


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